Family believes woman who died from rare bacteria ate raw shellfish

We first told you last month about a Department of Health investigation involving a patient who died from a rare bacteria called vibrio.

Now we’ve learned the investigation is done, but officials still don’t know for sure how she got sick.

Tennyson Ubasa believes his mother, Amalia Ubasa, got sick after eating raw shellfish on the Fourth of July.

Ubasa’s granddaughter says the 81-year-old “was the heart of our family.”

“She loved to cook all the time. That’s how you know how much she loved us, by how good her food tastes,” said Britteny Ubasa.

Family members say they’re still in shock. Ubasa had a pre-existing condition, but they didn’t think it it would be vibriosis that would take her life.

“I think that’s what probably progressed it severely. She was undergoing dialysis,” said Tennyson Ubasa. “I was really surprised that she didn’t pass away from her aliments, and it was caused by this bacterial infection.”

Health officials said in Hawaii, two-thirds of vibrio-related cases are from wound infections after exposing open cuts to salt or brackish water.

But you can also get it by consuming raw or uncooked seafood, which is why you see labels warning consumers they can increase their risk of illnesses.

The disclosure and reminder are mandated by the state to whoever serves or sells raw food.

“I think you have to be cognizant of the risks,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park. “Be aware of your health status. If you have underlying medical issues, perhaps that’s not the wisest thing to do.”

Other tips include cooking seafood or raw meats at a high temperature, refrigerating your food immediately, and always washing your hands and utensils to avoid cross contamination.

“The best thing you can do is try to assure appropriate hygiene at all points of the processing, but like I said, you can never be 100-percent safe when you’re talking about raw foods,” said Park.

“It just took this one instance of my mother passing. I believe that people should be aware of what is out there,” said Tennyson Ubasa.

Click for more information on vibrio and vibriosis:

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